A STATE development committee devoid of a single elected representative from Fremantle has approved a six-storey, 100-room hotel, office and retail development on the corner of South Terrace and Suffolk Street.
Although Yolk Property’s proposed development of the long-empty lot was knocked back by Fremantle council as being almost three times higher than allowed under the city’s planning scheme and detrimental to the local amenity, the WA Planning Committee’s assessment committee needed just 25 minutes of deliberation before giving its approval.
As a $24-million project, Yolk was able to have the hotel application elevated to the WAPC committee which was established by the McGowan government under Covid rules to push through big developments.
That point was noted by Yolk’s hired planner Megan Gammon from Urbis, at Thursday’s meeting: “As most people in this room know, the [State Development Assessment Unit] was set up to deal with just this; bringing shovel-ready projects like this online without being burdened by lengthy planning processes,” she said.
“These provisions are very outdated,” she said of the city’s 2007 local planning scheme.
Ms Gammon said the hotel had been supported by the council’s Development Advisory Committee and planning staff.
“The design is conscious that while situated on South Terrace it also sits on the corner of a residential heritage street … and the design is very sympathetic to this.”
Fremantle councillor Jenny Archibald, relegated to making a submission from the public gallery, took aim at the state-controlled planning process.
“Prior to the committee that we’re talking to [being] established, this would probably not have been approved,” Cr Archibald said.
“I’m not saying that it shouldn’t have been approved, I’m saying that normally a due process would have gone through a rezoning process where people would have participated, it would have been fully investigated.
“Because this committee has got powers that extend beyond our planning scheme, it concerns me that it can make a decision that is quite outside that scheme and could influence development in those areas.”
Cr Archibald said it was in response to the much-maligned Arundel Court flats next door and Johnson Court in the city centre that Fremantle residents had pushed for a blanket four-storey limit over the port city.
“I agree that we need to review our planning scheme; I agree there is a lot of opportunity for higher development around the city … but I get concerned when we can’t go through proper processes to have planned it out.”
A planning report prepared for the committee noted the tall building’s proximity to a single-storey, heritage-listed property directly across the road, but pointed to a couple of trees which it claimed would mitigate the impact. They turned out to be a 2.5-metre tall lemon scented gum and a Norfolk Island pine that’s just outgrown the sapling stage.
Yolk’s hotel, which looks to be “bespoke” hotel group Veriu’s first foray into WA, would be 20 metres tall.